Lovely Lessons, Fraught Flight, and Stressful Stateside

While I love to travel, dear reader the lead-up to any trip can be quite stressful. Luckily the trip itself isn’t. Normally. In terms of work, I had two English Center lessons and my private clients in China. Greek is on hold until I go back to the Netherlands. Xander is on a hiatus until June, but my new client from Taiwan will start on Monday next week. I had my last lesson with ShinWei and continued lessons with Harumi and my Greek client Galini. Before I left I was able to coordinate with my Palestinian girl’s dad and they will be back on my schedule on Sunday. I hope I am not too jet-lagged. While I’m in the states, I only have two lessons scheduled, one with Lillian, which took place on Saturday, and one with Galini, which is scheduled for tomorrow.

We left on Thursday and while Schiphol Airport is usually efficient, you could see that they had staffing shortages throughout the airport. Usually, you wait about 15 minutes to go through security, but we waited for about 40. But the trials and tribulations weren’t to end there. Once at the gate, I had a text from KLM on my phone that said my information needed to be updated. When I got to the counter, it was not to update information, but rather I had been selected for a random security screening for explosives. This was my first experience with this kind of screening. They basically take a swipe of your hands and have you take off your shoes and do a pat-down like at security. But you’re not allowed to go back to your traveling companions. You are then boarded first. I can’t say it was fun but it was certainly interesting. Once the randomly selected people were boarded, on came the rest of the passengers. That still meant that Jasper didn’t appear for about 20 minutes after I had been boarded. The flight was fine for the first four or five hours and then things got surprisingly turbulent. I am not a frightened flyer, in fact, I quite like it, but this was just a shade too much. The other lovely occurrence on the plane was that I thought I had lost my wallet. You can imagine my sense of panic. Luckily Jasper’s preternatural calm helped me find it. But I spent much of the flight annoyed with myself. The annoyance only got worse when we landed.

The flight arrived on time at about 3:35 in the afternoon and then we discovered that the TSA was also having staffing issues. It took us three hours to get out of the airport. I was out of the passport control line sooner than Jasper and had to wait for him for 40 minutes. I felt particularly bad for my dad who was waiting for all of that time. I don’t remember travel to the US being as difficult when we came in February, or at any other time, for that matter. And that was in addition to all of the covid stuff that we still had to comply with for the US as they still have a testing requirement. Luckily, when we go to Greece in June we will not have this issue as it is EU and we can travel freely without a testing requirement. If you’re planning a trip to the US anytime soon and traveling through Washington be prepared for long wait times.

Of course, for me, the running around started on Friday morning having to deal with various issues at the two apartments I have here in DC. I had real estate agents help me rent my apartments and the first one went very easily but the second which is older and hasn’t been renovated in 20 years was a bit harder to rent. In fact, it took almost 6 months. The larger of the two apartments we had rented in October of 2021 needed to be registered as free of lead paint and so I needed to do an inspection so that was my first stop on Friday. Then I went to the smaller apartment to meet my tenant as well as take a look at what furniture was in there and how best to move it. To do that I found a junk hauling service and had them come and give me a proposal. We agreed on today as the move-out date because my tenant is moving in and we can share the elevator. I absolutely hate it when I don’t have all the information that I need when dealing with my Apartments. I had never had to test for lead in the seven years that I owned my apartment so you can imagine my surprise when I got an email from the Department of the environment for the state of Maryland saying I needed to do just that and that I had a deadline of May 23rd. Luckily I was able to coordinate everything from the Netherlands so that it was in place when I landed but for me, coming to DC is not a vacation. Hopefully, the move-out will go smoothly especially as I was able to find homes for some of the more interesting pieces that I own. It’s been said that moving is one of the most stressful things, on a level with divorce. I’m not sure how true that is but sometimes it certainly feels that way. I’m not looking forward to when I eventually have to find a house in the Netherlands with Jasper. Which by the way we may have a deadline for. My landlord tried to raise our rent by 200 Euros in defiance of the rental cap which is no more than the CPI plus 1% which puts you at about 3.4% in the Netherlands. He had been a fairly reasonable landlord in the past but I was angered by his attempt at trying to get more money than was allowed. As a result, I would like to have a place bought and moved into by the time the rent goes up again in May of next year. Because I don’t want to deal with his BS.

I kept tabs on the writer’s group a bit, and Mark was at the library all by his lonesome on Thursday. Not a single solitary person showed up. He was pretty positive as he got a lot of good writing done. We’ll see what happens this Thursday. That’ll be my last full day in the US as we leave on Friday. So the session on the 26th should be back to normal.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Course Conclusions and Saturday Starts

This week at Inkreadable, dear reader, was a busy one. Jasper and I set off for the US in a couple of days and so both of us spent the weekend running around trying to prepare. For him, that meant buying eight kilograms of cheese and various other Dutch delicacies to bring to his parents. For me, it meant setting up appointments to get stuff done in the US. His Preparation was much more fun than mine because it included a trip to the candy store. I was able to do a couple of fun things even with all the coordinating that I had to do.

Before I get into the fun stuff, my schedule is a little bit packed in the run-up to the summer holiday. There is a little bit of good news and bad news with regard to private students. I saw Sander yesterday and then I won’t see him until the 13th of June. We will have to see what happens on the 13th of June because I am away the following week. It is a variable ping pong in terms of scheduling, dear reader, which can be quite difficult to keep track of. I swear, reader if I didn’t have Google Calendar loaded on my phone I would be a basket case. As it is, every little thing I am doing goes on my calendar whether it’s work or not. Odhran has moved to once a week for the foreseeable future. Vocabulary and listening skills are quite good but he struggles to pick the right answers to grammar questions. I spent most of the weekend trying to figure out how to teach him grammar and I’m struggling. As the last resort, I might ask my friend Despina over at Lexis Amsterdam but I don’t like imposing on her time. George and Jerry are also quieting down a little bit as they have a couple of significant exams coming up in May and June. There are a couple of bright spots in the private world. Lillian my teacher in China wants to continue after the 16 hours are over and has decided to go to an hour a week. It’s a much better schedule even if I don’t have to do much prep in the first place. I am shortly getting a new student who coincidentally happens to be from Taiwan. It’s always interesting discussing the dichotomy between the two countries so I’m looking forward so not just teaching the student but also learning from them.

It is a bit of a sad time in terms of the English Center for me. I had my last lesson with ShinWei last night. I am sad because we have been together for 40 weeks almost straight. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year. I am pretty sure that we will keep in touch as we tend to socialize and that is quite fun. But I will certainly miss seeing him once a week in the classroom. I have been enjoying my classes with Gallini the Greek girl quite a lot. She is pretty easy to prepare for as she’s just pronunciation and we do a lot of reading and talking. My girls from Palestine have not appeared on my schedule as yet even though I contacted their father to try and make appointments before I go to the States. I had contacted him on Friday to let him know that I would be available on Sunday and Wednesday this week for lessons for the girls but he never got back to me. I spoke to Brenda about the issue but we were unable to figure out how to deal with it as the customer really is King and there isn’t much that I can do. I have spent the last couple of weeks during a review of Elementary English with Harumi and she seems to be really well with exercises. What continues to be a struggle for her is speaking but I don’t anticipate that will get better if she doesn’t use the language. I hope when she gets to Paris that she will use English much more frequently than she does here in the Netherlands. Luckily, I will get a chance to see how that works because I am definitely going to go to Paris to visit her. The Ukrainian beginner class wrapped up yesterday and I can’t say I was too broken up about it.

I did get a chance to do some fun stuff over the weekend. The writer’s group decided to meet in real life on a Saturday. We tried a coffee shop( not the Amsterdam coffee shop) but a Starbucks type of coffee shop that had a view of the water to the north of the city. I think this is going to have to become a regular thing at least in the summer. Although we did decide that maybe it would be quite a nice place to go in the winter as well. Now that the pandemic is considered over by most people finding different cafes to write in is probably going to become a staple weekend activity. Whether it’s raining or not.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Surgery Success and Lingueo Loss

I’m back to my new normal, dear readers. My post-cataract surgery new normal that is. The laser surgery was a success. At least for now. I am too much of cynic to think that there won’t be issues in the future. After all, I have the empirical evidence to prove it. But for now, my left eye is my reading eye and my right eye sees distance. I have hit the sweet spot with leading with both eyes if I can maintain a specific distance from my Kindle. The surgery itself was quite easy. The young doctor who did the surgery was alternately a bit annoying and a bit amusing. I think, dear reader, he was all of 12 years old. Of course, I exaggerate a bit but he couldn’t have been more than 25. He spoke impeccable English and when I complimented him on his English his response was “yes but I wish I sounded British, you know like James Bond”. I had to sigh at that. The day of the surgery was a wash and I spent most of it on the couch, andwhile I couldn’t stop myself from using my eyes, I didn’t notice much of a difference until the evening. Then I started noticing changes. I have spent the last week not doing much of anything active. I am giving myself a week to recover and then we’ll head back to the gym tomorrow. There was really no aftercare and there was no patch or anything but they did tell me not to do any strenuous activities for about a week. All in all, I’m happy that I went and got the surgery done despite the anxiety I felt for the week before the surgery.

I resumed my teaching activities as normal from last Wednesday. But my schedule is pretty light. I mean let’s face it. it has been a light schedule for months now. That’s what you want, I’ve been hearing from family. I wouBut it isn’t actually. l’d like a consistent 20-hour-a-week teaching schedule. But unfortunately, that’s just not possible. The pandemic took a bite out of the English language teaching market as I have explained. Ad nauseam, I’m sure. But the week brought another loss. It seems that Lingueo sent an email saying that our profiles will be deactivated for those of us who haven’t been on the platform for some time. I never got that e-mail. I have a friend who wanted to take lessons with me on the platform and registered. He was told that I could not give lessons as I was no longer on the platform. When I called Lingueo to find out why, they told me about the email and I said I had not responded when they sent out the email. I told them that I hadn’t received the email and asked if there was anything we could do. They said no because they don’t have enough work for the teachers on the platform currently but they would put in my file that I am willing and ready to work. I think I’m going to try and harass them about once a month so that they have me on their radar. Still, it is a bit of a blow as I was really looking forward to getting back on that platform. When I realised that I was not going to be able to continue with Lingueo for the moment, I also remembered that Italki was going to deactivate profiles. Yesterday, I sent an email to them to see if I was too late to keep that profile active.

I still have a few clients with English Center, but it only adds up to about 7 hours a week of lessons at the moment. I am always hopeful that there will be more lessons but competing with 30 different teachers makes that difficult. I haven’t seen my private students very much over the last couple of weeks.Xander’s family surprised him with a trip to Paris so I didn’t see him yesterday. That makes 3-weeks that I will not have seen him. It looks like Greek is going to be cut to once a week for the moment, but we have agreed to take it week by week in terms of how that plays out. A little bit of good news is I may be getting a new private student in a couple of weeks’ time.

I’m trying to stay positive and believe that these losses are for the best given that I’m going to the US in 10 days and I will have a lot of stuff to do when I get there. The most pressing of which is getting my furniture out of my apartment which has been rented. That’s a little bit difficult to coordinate from here in the Netherlands.

Writing on Thursday was a breeze post-surgery and I could actually see the computer which was great. The group continues the Sunday online write-ins. I also can’t stop myself at times from being a little smug when discord causes problems. I almost want to want to go haha told you so. Which is very petty of me but nobody’s perfect.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Cataract Complications and Schedule Shutdown

This week at Inkreadable started off with a little bit of stress and ended with quite a lot. It started off well enough. After last week’s post had already been published, I went to the doctor to have the eye exam that I’d been waiting for almost a month. They confirmed the optometrist’s 50% vision loss but told me that in fact, the lens has clouded. I couldn’t get a very complete exam because the scanning and imaging machines were having technical issues. Throughout the whole hospital. So the doctor, asked if they could call me Friday to discuss options. It wasn’t like I had much of a choice and so agreed. On Thursday, I missed a call from the doctor but luckily they left a voicemail saying that the scanning and imaging machinery was working and that they were able to see that my retina was ok and they would proceed with surgery. I figured it would be a couple of weeks before they even called me to schedule the surgery. But in this case, I was wrong. They called me about three hours after I received the voicemail from the doctor. We schedule the surgery for later today. The surgery is not actually a surgery at all, but rather laser surgery. They’re going to put a second lens over the first one and laser through some holes to see if they can fix the cloudiness. The doctor said that they also saw wrinkling in the lens and hopefully this laser surgery will take care of that as well. I have spent the intervening week trying not to think about it. It’s been surprisingly easy as I’ve been stressed out with the collaboration for the free classes that the English Center is giving to Ukrainian refugees.

The English Center may have offered English lessons to Ukrainian refugees in order to bolster relations with the Amsterdam City Council, but I have not seen a single student. Monday last week was Easter Monday so they canceled the Beginner class. Thursday last week no one showed up and it was decided that the Ukrainian intermediate-advanced class would be paused. In my cynical world paused actually means çanceled. But it could be proven wrong and six months down the road the English Center could restart the intermediate-advanced class. It’s a bit of a shame because I actually like that level and they were working through some very interesting things with English central which is an app that the English Center has access to. In the email, it was explained that intermediate-advanced students were welcome in the Beginner class, where they could help out learners at a lower level. Unfortunately, that’s the class that I am looking forward to the least. A lot of work went into making a deck for beginner students in the last couple of weeks. On the one hand, I hope they come and that we have these lessons because of the work that we did but on the other hand, I’m absolutely terrified because I will be teaching it with Brenda. I haven’t been getting a lot of work from the English Center. I’m wondering if there might be something wrong with my teaching. This might be the chance I have to find out if that’s the case but it doesn’t mean that I’m not nervous. It’s the cherry on top of the Sundae that’s been my life in the last couple of weeks.

The surgery is happening on a day when all I have is Lillian. George and Jerry are on hiatus because of midterms. Odhran is off my schedule for the week because I don’t have his preferred time slot. So my schedule was only shut down on Tuesday. The rest of the week will be as normal unless I am told otherwise by the doctor. I spent this past weekend alternately stressing out about the surgery, the Ukrainian beginner class, and various things happening in the US. As of the publishing of this post, I’ll either be snoring or tossing and turning, but the surgery’s only an hour of my life. I can do it.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come

Technical Trauma and Gratis Groups

It was a bit of a strange week at Inkreadable, dear reader. In the first place, it was quiet in the run-up up to Easter weekend. Some of my students were already off my schedule, and quite a few of them decided to take a few days prior to Easter off. As a result, I only had five hours teaching the whole week. Due to circumstances beyond her control, Adiana was not on my schedule the whole week because her computer was again out for repair. It’s something that I have now become resigned to, that we will either have one, or possibly two lessons a week, but never ever the three that she wanted. Still I block off that time on my schedule but my 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays is never a certain hour. This week’s computer problem was diagnosed as a video card issue and we had to cancel all three classes. I am more angry at myself than anything else, however, dear reader. Because I am not able to enforce my own policies. The problem is, I’m not sure how to enforce them. There are just too many issues with Adriana’s to figure out how how to deal with it. If this was an English Center class I would simply call the English Centre and have them deal with it. But it’s not. You’ll remember from last week’s post that George and Gerry were having technical issues as well, though this was an issue of connectivity rather than hardware. We had a little bit of a blip when we saw each other on Tuesday but we were able to get through the lesson. The next time I see them is the beginning of May and I’m hopeful we will not have issues again. But it could also be a Zoom problem. I had thought that you needed a VPN when using Zoom in China but it seems you only need it when you initiate a meeting in China not when you are being hosted by someone else as George and Jerry are. Greek continues to go quite well and this week we talked about the types of things that we could have knowledge of. The lesson was to use the verb I know no in Greek and it’s interesting because Odhran has trouble articulating things that he knows how to do. I gave him a little homework asking him to research the types of things that he can do. I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with.

The English Center was also pretty quiet this week. With both the Palestinian girls and Harumi off my schedule, it meant I only had Shinwei. This week I also did some work on the database management and learned that the aphorism no good deed goes unpunished is absolutely true. What happened with this: instead of waiting for Brenda to call me to tell me that she needed me to update the database, I took the initiative of calling her. In the course of the conversation, she asked me if I could substitute for two classes for a friend of mine who also works at the EnglishCenter but is away in Kenya. They were free classes that the English Center is giving two Ukrainian refugees here in Amsterdam. As it was only two classes I agreed. It was, dear reader, the worst possible decision I could have made. It is two classes being given on Monday and Thursday afternoons. One is for intermediate/advanced English speakers and one to very low-level beginner speakers. The advanced speakers class was easy enough to figure out as I was given a TED talk and materials for it, so that was just facilitating the class. The Monday class is much more difficult as we actually had to create material. Keep in mind that we’re doing this work for no money. Although, I did explain to Brenda that I thought that she was doing it for street cred with the municipality and I was doing it for Street cred with her. After all, it was only two days. Or so I thought. Once in the Thursday class with Brenda, and a couple others, I realised that I was expected to be in the class until Krys, the original teacher, comes back and that is going to be a matter of weeks. I will probably still do the month, but I wish it had been clear that it was not just a couple of days. While I have the time, I do not have the inclination to build a and then have to give up all my work because the other teacher is back. There were a couple of problems with course planning for the Monday course as we were all supposed to contribute to the PowerPoint. Unfortunately, with my eye being away it is, that was not going to be possible for me. So I called Brenda and we decided to write a drill slide that the class can then repeat. I am extremely nervous about this class though because Brenda will be there and it will feel like a test of my ability.

Over in the writing world, I have resigned myself that we now have two separate groups, a discord group with lazy people who do not want to come to the library and write in person and the regular group. I have decided that I’m going to ignore the discord group and I’m not gonna write on the weekend unless it is in person. I have better things to do with my time as the weather in the Netherlands is starting to warm up and the last thing I want to do is sit online at home. I’ve decided that if there are people who want to come out and write on a Saturday, they will be welcome to do that but my Sundays are spoken for.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable Installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Ramadan Recess, possible student stick around, discord drama, wonderful workshop

It has been, dear reader, a relatively quiet week at Inkreadable. Ramadan started on the 1st of April and my Palestinian girls wanted to take the month off. Of course, it wasn’t possible to figure that out from the text that Wesam, the older sister, sent me. Her text was: “Dear teacher because we have classes during Iftar.” And? I thought to myself. Rather than trying to figure out on my own what the deal was, I contacted their father to get the lowdown. It seems that they have their father wrapped around their little fingers and he agreed to give them the month off. It would have been nice to have known that in the beginning of the package. After all, even though Ramadan moves because it’s a lunar-based calendar, the whole Muslim world knows when Ramadan will be well in advance of the holiday each year. It would have been nice if they had let me know at the beginning of the package. I had dinner with my friend Rose who teaches there father and apparently the adults are not going on hiatus, they are merely having class earlier to accommodate their diminished energy levels. Be that as it may, that means that they will be back on my schedule sometime in May. We will have to see how it plays out because I am going to the US in May for a week and to Greece in June for 10 days.

I still have packages with Harumi and ShinWei to finish up for The English Center. Harumi and I met in Amstelveen and we set up our schedule for the rest of the package. It took some doing because we had missed a few classes because we both got Covid. Further complicating the issue is that Harumi is leaving for Paris at the end of the school year. I wanted to have her fully scheduled out by the time I left for Greece and so we agreed to meet a few times twice a week so that we could finish up. That means that we finish in June. I will be sad to see her go, but it’s yet another student that I get to see in Paris. Every cloud does indeed have a silver lining. Shin Wei is halfway through his current package which is package number 4. I am not sure that he is going to continue to study English as as he is currently looking for a house and that is a full-time job in the Netherlands. And there’s the question of affordability, and TEC is expensive, so his English may take a back seat.

In my private client world, Lillian and I have gotten into a rhythm where she pretends to teach me using a video and I give her pointers on how to sound more natural and like a native speaker. We also spend part of the time of our lessons going over speeches that she needs to make about trends in education. What that means is that I don’t have a lot of prep for her and that I really like. There’s a lot riding on these lessons because she is trying to get into the Chinese public school system which is a more secure teaching job than working in the private school system. I hope it she’s able to get the job that she wants. I’m also a little concerned because if she doesn’t, she might blame me. This Sunday’s class with George and Jerry was difficult because of internet issues. I’m not sure if it was me or them or Zoom but we really struggled and had to to cut class off early. Odhran is doing really well in Greek and we’ve been concentrating on adjectives, nouns, and their articles. He seems to understand concepts and can answer questions that are simple. More complicated structures are quite hard for him to understand but they’re also very difficult for me to teach. But the best news of the week came last night when Xander told me that he might possibly continue with our classes and as a bonus he might need classes for his son because there is the chance this that his son will go to an English speaking School. That made my day.

Over in the writing world, a couple of things happened that were both amusing and exciting. I was highly amused that on Sunday most people could not get into the Discord for the writing group and could not help feeling a little bit smug that things are not working out quite as easily as as the member who set it up would like. I know that is petty of me but I simply couldn’t help myself. It ended up working out in the end and they were four attendees. I myself went to the gym because I simply couldn’t be bothered to write. Remember, dear reader, the workshop that I was stressed about in last week’s post? It ended up going wonderfully. I had six people with myself and they seemed to have a really nice time learning about why we should write and that I think there’s no such thing as writer’s block. They seemed to enjoy edging out of their comfort zones by writing urban fantasy for 30-minutes. The resulting stories were full of interesting dialogue, and scintillating descriptions. There were even some laughs. They came at 2 and ended up leaving at 6. I can only surmise based on that that they had a really good time and that there will be more writing workshops in my future.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Multiple Meltdowns

I consider myself, dear reader, fairly stoic in my οutlook. There isn’t much point in worrying about things that might not be able to βε changeδ. I think part of it is due to the fact that Jasper is also fairly stoic. On some level that makes it much easier for me, because without him I might be much more volatile. Jasper is one of the only people that I know who is not afraid of doctors. In fact, he is the one who lets the nurses experiment on him when they’re learning how to take blood. The man’s tolerance for pain is legendary. It is this attitude that I try to emulate most of the time. But sometimes for me, it simply isn’t possible. That was the case this week in all areas of my life.

In my professional life, I became exceedingly angry at my continued passing over for teaching assignments from The English Centre. At one point midweek, I had just had enough. I’ve been feeling like I am the only teacher not to get gigs unless someone, usually Rose recommends me. Like with my Palestinian girls. It’s hard not to feel like you’re doing something wrong. Objectively, I know that I’m not necessarily being singled out. After all, the company has 30 teachers on its roster. Usually what that means is that there’s only about a 33% chance that a teacher will get an assignment. If you factor in the seniority of teachers, I am at the bottom of the list. I’ve only been with the company since 2019 and realistically cannot expect to get as many students as people who have been with the company for much longer. But it still stings, and I found myself irrationally angry this week when I put my hat in for a teaching gig and was the only teacher to do so until The English Centre pushed to see if anyone else was available and then two people popped up. One of them has been with the English Center for about 5 years so that means that my chances are quite low.

The second meltdown was a bit delayed. I was not sure if I should post on the blog what I am going through, but as it directly affects both teaching and writing, and that’s the focus of the blog, it’s relevant. I had gone on a couple weeks back to the optician to see if I could get glasses because it’s very difficult for me to see the computer. The results were not encouraging. While my sight in my left eye has remained largely unchanged, according to the optician, I have lost 30% of the vision in my right eye which is the one that had the cataract. My vision is a little cloudy and I do see lots of floaters so I’m hopeful that it has to do with the cataract and it’s not more serious than that. It’s quite common for a secondary cataract to develop after cataract surgery. Apparently, the lens goes cloudy and then eventually opaque affecting vision. Fingers crossed that’s all it is, but that didn’t stop me from completely freaking out on Thursday this week. And I mean tears and sobs and hyperventilating. Frankly, dear reader, it was a disgusting display. Luckily, it was with my therapist where I feel completely safe and Justified in having a meltdown. After all, if you can’t do it when you’re trying to unpack all your mental health baggage then when can you?. Since I already had an appointment with the eye doctor on the 19th of April, she encouraged me to advocate for myself and try to get an earlier appointment, either somewhere else, or harass the eye clinic to change the appointment on the 19th for an earlier one if possible. Unfortunately, that was not to be as there were no appointments available. Even getting the appointment on the 19th took 30-minutes on the phone. But it was a good exercise in self- confidence building.

Meltdown number three happened Thursday and Friday this week. As I get older, dear reader, I have less patience for people who do not read. It seems that in the writer’s group there are plenty of people who lack the skill. On the Meetup site for the writers group, I have written every pertinent detail for the meetings. The address of the location is on the website, the structure of the meeting is as well and still, I get questions about those very things. We have a WhatsApp group as well, and I was irrationally upset when a member changed the description of the group without asking. While I have no problem with change, I do have a problem with people doing things without telling me or asking me if it’s ok to do. I’m a pretty copacetic person and will probably say yes. This was just a start, however. I was able to laugh this incident and even thank the person for changing the description even though I said to her that I didn’t think anybody would read it. She also has a sense of humor and concurred with my sentiment. But there was more to come. On Thursday evening another member contacted me and asked if there was a zoom meeting planned and I said that there wasn’t but she was welcome to start one if she wanted to. She did not start a Zoom meeting. Instead, she changed platforms to Discord thereby forcing those of us who want to write online to change platforms simply because she wanted it. When I called her on it and told her how I felt, it was a bit of a fiasco. Again it was not about the fact that she changed the platform, it was about the fact that she didn’t ask thereby undermining both me and the other organizer of the group. I spent about an hour discussing with her why I was upset but she still couldn’t see what she had done wrong. She is a little bit myopic that way. It’s not that I don’t see the benefit of changing to a platform that doesn’t cost any money and allows people who live away from Amsterdam to participate. But in effect, it also makes two groups, and that is not something that I wanted. The intention post-pandemic was to go back to our Thursday night in real-life meetings without the online meeting. To have those intentions summarily dismissed and have someone else take it upon themselves to force the change is what I have a problem with. I will get over it and maybe in the long run it will be better for the group to have the discord platform but I am also allowed to have my feelings about it.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there is more to come.

Wrenching Renewal and Workshop Worries

Growing up, dear reader, my biggest source of conflict with my family was the idea that I was always quite negative. But, I rationalize this with the idea that I was a teenager and all teenagers are full of angst. After all, if the boy that you love doesn’t love you back when you’re 16 it’s the end of your world. As I got older, I realized that I was rather more of a quiet optimist. I like to think that I remain optimistic but I will say that happiness is a choice and making that choice can be quite difficult. So it proved this week at Inkreadable. In private client world, things proceed well with both George and Jerry and with Odhran. I have found a good rhythm for preparation for both clients with George and Jerry because we have a book it’s quite easy to expand on the material in the book when it proves to be too simplistic for them. The challenge there is that because of George’s speech impediment it’s sometimes very difficult to understand him and as I end the lesson with him, that makes it a little bit more difficult. With Odhran and Greek, his mom really likes the progression of the books that we’ve been using, while I find them a little bit too simplistic. They deal with literacy and that can be good when trying to teach the Cyrillic alphabet. He does quite well with the it, but it’s quite clear that he doesn’t understand what he’s reading and instead is reading phonetically. I was never much of a fan of Hooked on Phonics in the States which shows children as young as 3 reading with fluency. They may be reading but do they understand what they’re reading? Such as the case with Odhran and Greek. While he reads quite well there are still issues with intonation and word stress. He often says that he doesn’t understand what he’s reading.

My challenge with Lillian in China is trying to figure out how to fill an hour with pronunciation techniques. I’m not sure if you’ll remember, dear reader, the two students that I had for pronunciation a few months ago. I’m running into some of the same challenges with Lillian. The plan for our 16-hour package is to get her to sound a little bit more American when giving mock classes and presentations. While I understand what she does with her intonation and her voice it can be a little bit hard to correct as she is used to non-rhotic British English. Getting her to say the letter r and speak more in the back of the throat than the front of the mouth can be a challenge. This week was also not without its sadness. While Sander renewed with me for another package, it is a full 5 hours shorter than we have done before. He says that he wants a shorter package because he will be building a house at the end of our package and will not have time for English. I know what’s going to happen after those 10 hours are over. I don’t think I will see him again. He says that his house is probably going to take about a year and if you can’t find the time to spend an hour a week on English while you’re building a house then I doubt you’re going to be coming back to me after the house is finished. It makes me sad because we’ve been working together since 2019. While I have to remain optimistic that something will come up, having a positive outlook can be quite a challenge when you work in something as inconsistent as teaching language. And that is with all languages, not just English.

Later today I have my last class with Martijn. We have been working together since late last year. What originally started as 20 half-hour classes twice a week became a one-hour class once a week for 10 hours and then he renewed for a further 10 hours. Usually when when a teacher asks a student if they will renew, the answer is yes but alas not this time. It seems that Martijn’s company will only budget for 20 hours of English lessons. I am sad to see him go and hope that I will see him again sometime soon. I am too much of a cynic to think that once a person has finished English lessons they will come back. Or that if they do, they find that they don’t have the energy to continue as was the case with my student Felix back in 2020. He came back to my schedule for all of 3 lessons before saying he had no energy to continue. I still have ShinWei for another six lessons and of course there are the sisters from Palestine. But I’m noticing a distinct lack of lessons from TEC. Every time I compete for a lesson I am not chosen. Even with the girls from Palestine, I was the third choice and I only got the gig because I was recommended by a friend. Still my eternal optimism comes to the fore and I have to keep hoping that I will get more lessons.

In two weeks I am giving a workshop on writing. Seven people have signed up so far and they are coming to my house on the 9th of April to hear me talk about the joy of writing. The caveat to this workshop is that I am not technically a published writer so so I almost feel like a fraud. One of my writer friends has said that I should not feel this way and that I should give this class without remorse. After all, when one puts pen to paper one is a writer. I spent most of Saturday figuring out how to teach this workshop. I also did a little bit of research for workshop that I would love to give for TEC on diplomacy and soft skills. What are soft skills, you ask? They are the character traits that people have they’ll help them interact with other people. These include the ability to communicate with others, mentor coworkers, lead a team, negotiate a contract, follow instructions, and get a job done on time. It can be daunting to have the skills in your native language. Imagine the difficulties faced by second language learners. I had pitched the idea to TEC that we do a one-day seminar. I had been working on it before I was struck down by Covid but of course, was not able to do much of anything last week. On Saturday, I sat down and did a couple of hours of work on the soft skills workshop. With me not going to Amstelveen for the next couple of weeks, I now have extra time to be able to work on it. I’m still a little bit worried about it. It’s one thing to plan 14 hours of lessons in a week and quite another to plan a 6-hour workshop. However, will I fill that time? It’s a challenge I’m both looking forward to and dreading.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’s more to come.

Covid Crash, Long Distance Lament, and Social Media Student

When it rains, dear reader, it pours. It may be an old English adage, but this week it was particularly apt. It all started the week before really, but I did not have the mental space to be able to write about it then. Jasper’s aunt Carla passed away on Sunday the 13th of March. We had been lucky enough to see her on the 12th but she was on heavy painkillers. On Sunday, Jasper went to Amersfoort on his own to be with his mom as I could not move my students off my schedule that quickly. On Monday the 14th he tested positive for covid. I also tested that day but was negative. It was only a matter of time, however. I started feeling a bit poorly Tuesday evening. While it occurred to me that I too had Covid, it was also likely that I was going through apologies as that’s the time of year it is and I tend to get pretty bad allergies at least once a season. Alas, it was not to be. I tested positive for Covid on Wednesday morning. I quickly shut down my schedule for the rest of the week. That meant contacting ShinWei here in Amsterdam to cancel that evening’s lesson as well as Hasan in Palestine to tell him that I would not be teaching his daughters. I also cancelled the remaining lessons that I had with Adriana for that week. And of course, I had to inform The English Center and cancel Harumi’s in-person lesson for Friday. Having done all that, I didn’t have the mental space to do anything else. So I ended up doing a lot of reading. Having been extremely lazy on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, there really was no reason not to watch the webcast of Carla’s funeral on Friday. Jasper and I watched together and got a chance to grieve. His grief, of course, was much more poignant than mine, but I lost a friend and the only person I know who had the patience to listen to me try to ramble on in Dutch. I am going to miss my friend: our Skyping and my trips to see her when she was feeling up to it, her humor when she spoke about her nieces and nephews, and her no-nonsense advice. While the pandemic took a toll on how many times I was able to see her, she remained positive throughout. She was much loved and that too was evident in the webcast of her service by the emotions displayed by the people who spoke.

In the midst of all of this, I was trolling my EU Facebook group and saw that there was a call for someone to help it a Chinese student with pronunciation. I put my hat in the running for the gig but was the only one so I got it. She’s an adult teacher who speaks at C1 level and is preparing for a teaching jury. She has to give a mock 15-minute lesson to three judges as well as a 3-minute presentation. She’s got a couple of months to prepare and we will be meeting at 7 p.m. Beijing time. We had a trial lesson on Saturday where I got to know her a little bit and her goals. I also tried to see if using WeChat would work but that did not happen. I was also concerned about payment from China but the person facilitating the lesson works for a company that has a bank account in the UK.. They are also able to use PayPal so that works out well for me. But there is also another possibility. I have a UK bank account still and could possibly be paid into that account as well. The problem is I’m not sure how that will affect my taxes. Still it an extra 16 hours of work over the next 2 months.

While I cancelled most of my my appointments and nearly completely cleared my schedule, I kept Greek on Thursday. I did not realise how much energy I was expending on Greek and was exhausted after I finished teaching. But with Greek done and the trial lesson on Saturday I felt it was only fair that I start teaching as much as I could on Sunday. So I did not cancel George and Jerry in China nor did I cancel the Palestinian girls. And while I was tired, enough was enough and it was better for me to start getting back in the swing of things in preparation for the week ahead. In the meantime, on Sunday I found out that Harumi’s husband and son both had Covid. it seems like it’s only a matter of time before she and her other son get it so we will have to see if I teach on Friday in Amstelveen this week.

I also kept my appointment with the writer’s group on Sunday to write online. We have decided that that will continue for the foreseeable future with cases of deltacron rising here in the Netherlands, it seems only prudent. I also have half a mind to put the writing group online once again until things calm down but I feel that I might have a mutiny on my hands if I did that. It’s something to discuss with Mark.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there’ss more to come.

Teenage Trauma, Policy Problems, Covid Concerns, and Writing Restoration

It has been quite a difficult week at Inkreadable, dear reader. Jasper and I went to see his aunt Carla on Saturday as she had moved to hospice earlier in the week. She’d been sick a long time and passed away on Sunday. While her passing was not a total surprise, no one expected it to happen quite so quickly. Jasper went to see his Mom and other Aunt on Sunday. I couldn’t join as I had too much on my plate to cancel. Yesterday morning, Jasper tested positive for Covid. He took two self-tests, and then went to a Ministry of Heath testing site to get an official result. I tested negative but decided to self-quarantine until this Saturday. I cleared my schedule of all in-person activities for this week, and hope that I don’t test positive on Saturday.

I met my Palestinian clients on Wednesday for the first time. Krys did not exaggerate about the girls learning conditions or their levels. Wesam, the older one, did a decent job with the present tense and was able to talk a little bit about her routine but she does lack the vocabulary to be able to express herself. It didn’t help that she kept getting interrupted for the first 20 minutes by a little brother who sounded quite angry. Leen is at a slightly higher level than her sister. She has a little bit more vocabulary and is able to express herself with a little bit more fluency. After the lesson, I spend about ten minutes filling out a progress report which I sent to their father. I assigned them each five sentences using the present tense. I think because they’re at such a low level I am going to just teach them the present and past simple and progressive for grammar over the next couple of lessons and then try to figure out where to go from there. I had forgotten how difficult it is trying to keep teenagers motivated. I don’t actually have a parent sitting next to my kid while I’m teaching them. Dare I say that I miss teaching VIPKid? Actually, I wouldn’t go that far. Apologies in advance for those teachers who read my blog and still think that VIPKid is the bee’s knees. But I foresee quite a few problems with keeping the girls interested. They like things that are quite difficult to find ESL lessons about. After all, many of the lessons about shopping are about sustainability and these girls are not there yet in English.

With Covid on the horizon, I moved everything online. I had already moved ShinWei to Wednesday evening because we were going to be in Amersfoort for the day. It’s a shame because we were going to schedule lunch at a Chinese restaurant so that I could try some dishes that I have never tried before. I was quite looking forward to it, and as long as the dish doesn’t contain anything too interesting, I am game for most things. With Harumi off my schedule and all my in-person things off my schedule, the week is looming with lots of space. I think I’ll plan a diplomacy workshop that I thought to pitch to TEC, and work on the workshop on writing that I have agreed to give next month under the auspices of Girl Gone International. I feel a bit of a fraud as I am not published, and don’t count the poem that I have in the Scottish anthology, A Spoonful of stories.

I’m also coming up on the end of Zander’s current package. We had our penultimate lesson yesterday. I was gratified to hear that he wants to make the time to continue. And I’m finding the online is working well for both of us even if he’s just up the road. I mean that literally. He’s a 15-minute walk. While I do not mind coming to him, with Adriana on my schedule that’s a little bit difficult at the moment. Adriana is the sister of my former student Claudia from the English Centre. I am teaching her three days a week or would be if she actually came to class three days a week. It seems, dear reader, that she is always suffering some sort of technical issue. A couple of weeks ago she had gone on a trip to her parents and was afraid to drive home in the middle of the night so she spent the night. And they have no internet. I can certainly understand this, what with the roads being not the safest in the evenings in Colombia, because of, shall we say, some political unrest. Read: the drug cartels roam the streets at night. So every time she misses a lesson I add it to the end of the package. We were supposed to end at the beginning of April, we are now ending in the middle of April. I am not sure if I can even enforce my own policy of 24-hours notice or you lose the class because I couldn’t with her sister and that was mandated by the English Center. Since I didn’t tell her the policy, more fool me, it will be impossible to enforce at this point. George and Jerry have started a new book with me from National Geographic called Great Writing. We are using it primarily as an access to vocabulary but at this point it feels very easy for them. I am hoping that it will get a bit more challenging for them. I have tried to make it challenging by expanding and getting them to talk about the words in the context of their own lives as well as evaluating the writing in a more coherent manner. But it’s been a bit of a struggle. The top struggle for me right now is Greek. While Odhran’s parents are happy with me, I find that I am not happy with the books that I have bought because I feel like they don’t have a structure. Odhran is reading and can get most of the words in Greek but still struggles with word stress. To be fair, he struggles with that in English as well. Despina at Lexis Amsterdam is usually pretty good for resources and help but she is away at the moment so he is going to have to wait until she’s back and I start taking my own Greek lessons. In exchange for English language social Media help, Despina has agreed to give me Greek lessons. Because I am according to her, a native speaker of Greek there is no group lesson that I can take with her and she has to design it for me. I’m looking forward to it because I will be able to ameliorate my Greek and maybe it will help Odhran as well.

I’m sure you’ll remember, dear reader, my panic over losing a good chunk of writing from my novel in my previous post. It took me all week to figure out whether I had the piece of writing somewhere else (I did) and whether I could integrate it into what I had started writing when I thought I had completely lost the passage (I could). I will say that I found it quite tiring trying to merge new writing with old writing. By the end of Thursday I was not able to write anything else. It was fortunate that we have found a very cozy pub about a 6-minute walk from the library to go for drinks. It’s much nicer than the previous week’s location. Sunday riding this week was also online. It was that session that I was able to to continue from where I had left off a couple weeks previously. I have to s I’m quite pleased with my progress even if I had a major freak out when I thought that my writing was lost.

That’s all she wrote for this Inkreadable installment. But stay tuned. As always, there”s more to come.